The X Factor Author:Andre Norton At this point in Norton's Council / Confederation universe, the job of discovering and exploring new planets - that of the First-In Scouts - is pretty much a closed occupation. Scouts make contract marriages with suitable women, which end after the birth of a child or upon the Scout's departure for his next assignment, and any children of the un... more »ion - nearly always sons - go to the nearest Scout creche to become the next generation. But what happens when the child of such a union isn't suited to the life of a Scout?
Diskan Fentress was rejected as mentally unsuitable for Scout training; his size and great strength mark him as a throwback. Since his mother's death in childbirth and his father's disappearance in space left him in state custody, he wound up assigned to manual labor - until the day Renfry Fentress reappeared. Renfry had found a new civilization, and even a wife among his adopted people - but knowing that they could not have children, he sought out his son. But Diskan, despite - or because of - the endless patience, charm, and tact of his father's adopted people, is utterly alone among strangers, marked by clumsiness, his great size and strength, and inability to express himself.
Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will appreciate how his isolation is drawn here - and will understand why he gives in to temptation. Fleeing from an embarrassing scene of (accidentally) shattered artwork, Diskan hides in Renfry's study - and steals a voyage tape for Mimir, a world marked as only partially explored and having some mystery about it. His journey in a stolen spaceship brings him into contact with a Zacathan archeologist, the Guild, and the ruins of an alien civilization. Or are they really ruins - could Mimir still be inhabited?« less